VANCOUVER - Forward David Booth will make his season debut in the Vancouver Canucks' preseason finale against the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
There was concern Booth might miss the start of the season after missing all but 12 games last season before ankle surgery, being held out of the start of training camp and pulling out of a game last weekend after tweaking his groin during the morning skate. But coach John Tortorella surprised everyone by announcing the oft-injured forward is ready to play.
"David Booth as far as I am concerned is playing tonight, unless someone tells me something different," Tortorella said when asked if Booth had resumed skating.
Tortorella is excited to see what he has in Booth, a top-six wing capable of adding some of the "bite" and "stiffness" he wants more of from the Canucks.
"I am dying to see him in game action," Tortorella said. "I haven't seen David Booth since he stuffed some goals in on when I was in Tampa. He's a really good player that makes us a better team and we are just trying to get him healthy."
Booth pulled his groin during on-ice fitness testing last season and missed the start of the season. He returned to score one empty-net goal in 12 games before badly spraining his ankle in an awkward fall March 16; that injury required surgery six days later.
The Canucks held him out of the start of a training camp that focused heavily on skating for precautionary reasons, and he pulled himself out of the lineup last Saturday.
Booth, who skated twice on his own before joining the team Thursday, said it "wasn't a major thing," but the groin tightened and he worried it "felt like last year."
"I didn't want to miss a month. Just check your ego and say be ready for October 3 [the season opener in San Jose], not for a preseason game. With the past I have had I didn't want to risk having something bad happen where I am out for a period of time. Trust me, it was everything I wanted to play that game and for me it was a really hard decision, but I think I learned from my past experiences and sometimes I push myself, and if I had done that I had a feeling I would be missing a lot more time than the week I did."
It's been a tough start in Vancouver for Booth.
Acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers early in the 2011-12 season, the 28-year-old Michigan native has made more headlines for Twitter pictures of his offseason hunting habits than he has on the ice since joining the Canucks, scoring 17 goals in 78 games over parts of two seasons. A big, powerful forward who isn't afraid to take the puck to the net, Booth should be a great fit under Tortorella; however, with two seasons left on a contract with a $4.25 million salary cap hit, he's also has been mentioned as a possible buyout candidate.
"I haven't played since March so it's going to be frustrating, I know that, and you can't get down," he said. "It's going to take some time to get your timing back, and balance, co-ordination, seeing the ice, just getting on your edges. That only comes with time."
At least Booth will get one game. Jordan Schroeder didn't make it through his.
Schroeder, who worked hard to come back early from offseason shoulder surgery and try to win a vacant third-line center spot, will miss at least three weeks with a fracture from blocking a shot in his pre-season debut last Saturday. He was spotted in a walking boot in the hallways of Rogers Arena on Thursday, and Tortorella confirmed the injury.
"Probably out three weeks or so. It's not displaced," Tortorella said. "It's tough luck for him coming back from the shoulder and then bang, right away in the first game."